SOUTH JORDAN — Ex-Googler Karl Sun began his hunt for innovation in the Beehive State shortly after he and his family transplanted from the Bay Area 12 years ago.
After a couple of years working in Utah remotely for the Mountain View, California-based search giant, Sun turned his own search efforts toward finding an investment opportunity with a promising startup. But when he met then-BYU student Ben Dilts and got a chance to see the collaborative diagramming software Dilts had built for a health services company, his path took a slightly different turn.
"I was trying getting involved in the angel community, which was very nascent at the time, and the seed funding environment, which was virtually nonexistent," Sun said. "And then I met my co-founder, Ben. I was looking for something interesting to do and was super impressed by the product he had built."
That product was the early version of Lucidchart, a novel new piece of software that mediated collaborative diagramming and workflow charting in a way that had never really been conceived. Sun, who had seen a lot of innovation during his seven years with Google, was blown away with Dilts' concept and immediately recognized that even the early incarnation of the software was already ahead of the field.
"The project really came from Ben's inability to find something already out there to solve a problem he was trying to address," Sun said. "I saw the product Ben had built. A diagramming application that enabled people to work collaboratively to build flow charts so that you could draw process models, in his case, product flow."
"It was a cloud-based graphical product, not text-based, and in many ways it worked better than the Google products did."
Sun jumped in as Lucidchart's first investor and not long after joined Dilts and a third founder as CEO for the fledgling effort that began life in a small Utah County office. Sun said he and Dilts also hit it off on a personal level but, perhaps more significantly, shared a view on what sort of mission the new company should adopt.
"He and I … had this vision that it's not just flow charts and diagrams," Sun said. "It's this idea of helping people think and work more visually, to build the visual workspace that everybody is now talking about. And I think the idea that we had then, which has become even more true is, you know, the way we all work now is very different than what it was 20 years or even 10 years ago."
Sun noted the modern work environment, almost regardless of business type, is one through which an unprecedented amount of information is flowing. The ability to keep up with, interpret and make productive use of that tidal wave of data can, Sun said, be greatly ameliorated with Lucidchart.
"You know the simple saying, a picture's worth a thousand words, right?" Sun queried. "Like, if you have something complex and can lay it out and see it visually, it's much easier for you to digest that information. And that's what we're trying to help people do here.
"We're helping people create clarity and understand the complex systems or processes that they're working on."
The list of those seeking that clarity via Lucidchart and its aid in digesting all the modern work world requires is a long one, and getting longer. The company boasts over 15 million users, is adding some 700,000 new customers every month and has drawn over $114 million in investment to date. Last fall, the company closed a $72 million funding round from new investors Meritech Capital and ICONIQ Capital, along with existing partner Spectrum Equity. Meritech managing director George Bischof said the company is setting up to be the conduit through which the future of work will flow.
"We were drawn to Lucidchart because of its visionary executive team, beloved product, rapidly expanding global footprint and relentless focus on a critical facet of the modern workplace – visual collaboration and communication," Bischof said in a statement. "Lucidchart has built a truly impressive enterprise (software as a service) business and we believe the future of work flows through Lucidchart."
Los Angeles-based health and fitness company Beachbody decided to check out Lucidchart about a year ago, and since then the tool has taken off with employees. Beachbody director of technical services Mike Dolan said the company has purchased over 100 Lucidchart licenses in just 10 months of use and the software's popularity continues to grow.
"We have a lot of different departments that are using it, finance, operations, information technology ... it's really all over," Dolan said. "It really works the best for showing and explaining how our process work."
Dolan said Lucidchart also syncs up with numerous other data-heavy programs that are in use at Beachbody and the platform easily automates pulling in that data to build flow charts and diagrams.
"Workday, Confluence, Single Sign On … and others are easily integrated with Lucidchart and I know they're working on more integrations," Dolan said.
He also noted the design of the platform makes it both easy to use and, based on his own experience with the tool, said it "has a really cool fun factor."
Making Lucidchart fun and easy to use, and cool, was at the heart of the work of former Lucidchart employee Libby Thomas. Thomas, who is currently studying for a graduate degree in fine art in Boston, was part of Lucidchart's creative team, working on new design tools and elements to help those creating charts and diagrams give their work some visual interest. Along the way, Thomas, who is also a singer and songwriter, made her own innovative use of the platform, including creating a "mood map" song list for performances.
"Playing at coffee shops, it was hard for me to navigate what I wanted to play from my iPad," Thomas said. "I created a mood map with sections and songs that went with them … and a few special case notes, like 'songs for when my ex shows up.'"
She said she and her Lucidchart team members were always looking to build utility and flexibility into the platform.
"I think a good tool doesn’t just get locked into one thing," Thomas said. "It's one that can be used in a lot of different scenarios.
"LucidChart is great for engineers, but honestly if you’re on the design team you can use it to make really cool, user-friendly infographics, too."
Sun said last year's big capital infusion is helping fund ongoing product development as well as market expansion efforts. While most of the company's 500-plus employees work out of its South Jordan headquarters, Lucidchart opened a new office in Amsterdam dedicated to the expansion of markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Sun noted explosive growth in non-English speaking markets and that a third of the companies revenues were now being generated by international users.
As the former employee of a company whose brand became so widely used it morphed into a verb, Sun has set similarly lofty goals for the 9-year-old Lucidchart.
"We want to be … all the places that people work," Sun said. "Because we feel like what we offer can be so ubiquitous and helpful in all the situations for whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever you do."
Correction: The photo captions accompanying this story incorrectly identified the company as Lucid Software. The company is Lucidchart.